CAIRO, Egypt – Al-Qaida vowed to keep fighting the United States and avenge the death of Osama bin Laden, which it acknowledged for the first time Friday in an Internet statement apparently designed to convince followers that it will remain vigorous and intact even after its founder’s demise.
Al-Qaida’s plots are usually large-scale and involve planning over months or even years. But Western intelligence officials say they are seeing increased chatter about cheap, small-scale attacks – perhaps by individuals or small extremist groups inspired to take revenge for the killing.
“USA, you will pay!” chanted more than 100 participants in a pro-bin Laden protest outside the U.S. Embassy in London on Friday.
A Western intelligence official said no concrete threat has emerged so far that authorities considered credible.
Authorities in the U.S. and Europe chose not to elevate threat levels.
Interpol has asked law enforcement agencies in 188 countries to be on alert for retaliatory attacks. Communities have been warned to report anything suspicious. Embassies and some American businesses have added new security measures.
Despite the Internet chatter, reaction in the Islamic world to bin Laden’s death has been relatively muted compared with the rage that he long inspired, raising questions about his relevance in the Middle East – a region that has been changed by a wave of pro-democracy uprisings.
The al-Qaida statement, titled “You lived as a good man, you died as a martyr,” did not name a successor to bin Laden. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, is now the most prominent figure in the group and a likely contender to take his place.
“The blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is too precious to us and to all Muslims to go in vain,” the statement said. “We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries.”
Although the statement’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed, it was considered to be authentic. It was posted on militant websites Friday by the al-Fajr Center, al-Qaida’s online media distribution network, and the writing style was typical for al-Qaida. The statement was issued in the name of the organization’s General Command and dated Tuesday, the day after bin Laden’s death.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said U.S. officials are aware of the statement and the threat. “What it does obviously is acknowledge the obvious, which is that Osama bin Laden was killed,” said Carney. “We’re quite aware of the potential for (terrorist) activity and are highly vigilant on that matter for that reason.”
The wealth of information pulled from bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has reinforced the belief that he played a strong role in planning and directing attacks by al-Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, senior U.S. officials said Friday.
The data further demonstrate to the U.S. that top al-Qaida commanders and other key insurgents are scattered throughout Pakistan, not just in the rugged border areas, and are being supported and given sanctuary by Pakistanis, a senior defense official said.
Bin Laden’s first priority, the official said, was his own security. But the data show that he was far more active in providing guidance and telling affiliated groups in Yemen and Somalia what they should or should not be doing.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive material.
Their comments underscore U.S. resolve to pursue terror leaders in Pakistan, particularly during this critical period in the Afghanistan war, as President Barack Obama moves to fulfill his promise to begin withdrawing troops this July.